As we’re sure you’re all aware, we’ve just started British Tourism Week, a five-day celebration of Britain’s fifth-largest industry. According to VisitBritain (or the Tourist Board, as your Gran might call it), tourism is worth £85bn to the UK every year – equivalent to 3.5% of our entire economy. It also keeps nearly 8% (about 2.1m) of the British workforce in a job.
To celebrate this fact, VisitBritain has sent us a pack of ‘Tourism Trumps’, a set of cards based on the big-selling Top Trumps series (which has recently undergone a resurgence). We were immediately alive to the possibilities. We assumed the cards would show a range of British tourist attractions with a run-down of their key attributes for comparison: amount of litter, area covered by graffiti, relative concentration of Japanese tourists, erosion due to air pollution, number of local pubs where you can drink safely, that sort of thing.
However, VisitBritain has instead decided to concentrate on the importance of Britain as a tourist attraction to our chums overseas. As such, Tourism Trumps allows you to compare the average spend of Belgian and Argentinean tourists (the Argies spend three times more, although their typical stay is three times longer), or the UK’s relative share of the tourist market in Russia as opposed to Poland (though we’re not quite sure whether the lowest or highest score wins here). All facts that you must have been itching to know.
One thing it does show is the UK’s reliance on visitors from the US, who accounted for £3bn of the £16bn spent by overseas tourists in the UK in 2006. So the next time an American asks you for directions from Kings Cross to St Pancras, go easy on them. Especially since their dollars don't go very far over here at the moment...
But although we can’t see Tourism Trumps catching on in playgrounds across the country, we think it’s a great idea in principle to celebrate Britain’s biggest industries for five whole days. Watch out for National Arms-Dealing Week, coming soon. You’d get some much better Top Trumps then: ‘Number of superguns allegedly purchased from Western governments: one’.